Empire State Exodus: The moveBuddha 2021-2022 New York Migration Report

Big Takeaways

  • 2022 moveBuddha data shows that Webster, NY has the highest move ratio so far this year, with 134 moves in for every 100 moves out. The next highest cities are Ithaca, NY (127 to 100) and Fairport, NY (126 to 100).
  • The worst move ratio goes to Jamaica, NY with only 27 moves in for every 100 moves out. Followed by Bronx, NY (36 to 100) and Staten Island, NY (27 to 100).
  • Those leaving New York in 2022 are mostly headed to Florida, California, and Texas, in that order. Together, they comprise of over 40% of moves out of NY.
  • The most popular routes in and out of the state have been coast to coast this year. For outbound moves, “New York, NY to Los Angeles, CA” has been the most popular search and for inbound, “San Francisco, CA to New York, NY”.
  • According to the U.S. Census, New York lost more residents than any other state from April 2020-July 2021 population estimates. And moveBuddha’s data in 2022, shows NY has the #4 worst move ratio.

Are people leaving New York in 2022?

Start spreading the news: Plenty of New Yorkers are leaving today.  And while NYC is seeing the most out-moves compared to welcoming new residents, almost everywhere in the Empire State is feeling some loss. What are the cities with the biggest influx and outflux?

New York state has long been a place where immigrants and dreamers could come up in the world, a place that knows what it means to make it big. New York City rose to the top of the U.S. population charts by 1850, partly because it helped grow the state’s economy with the Erie Canal and the country’s first regular rail service across the state, building thriving communities from Albany to Buffalo. But the tide is turning.

In 2020 alone, New York City experienced a temporary exodus of residents relocating to avoid the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only is NYC one of the densest in the country, but it was also a pandemic epicenter early on, reinforcing the idea that those huddled masses weren’t safe for residents yearning to breathe free. Add the possibility of remote work and the high cost of living, and New Yorkers found it was time to make their move. Upstate, residents continued their exodus, too.

But while the pandemic was temporary, New York state’s outmigration has proven to have staying power. We wanted to look at the moveBuddha data to find out who is leaving the Empire State, which cities they’re leaving, and where they’re heading.

Table of Contents

I. Moving to New York: Statewide trends from the last decade and during the new decade’s great migration

II. 2022 Forecast: Which New York cities are surging in popularity and which are losing residents?

III. Real Insights: We asked locals, why are people leaving New York?

IV. Sources and Methodology

I. New York Exodus

New York lost more residents than any other state from April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, according to U.S. Census population estimates. During this time, the state registered the biggest numeric decline in the country, at a 319,020 population loss. And that makes sense, largely because of how hard NY was hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic during this time.

moveBuddha data from 2022 shows that the state of New York hasn’t bounced back. It ranks alongside other states seeing significantly more moves exiting the state than moving in:

  1. New Jersey
  2. California
  3. Illinois
  4. New York

According to search queries from the first 6 months of 2022, New York has the #4 worst move ratio, with only 65 searches in for every 100 searches out.

Both moveBuddha and U.S. Census data show that, as a whole, New York is seeing fewer people move in than out over the past few years. And the trend shows no signs of slowing down: New York moving searches make up 10.4% of moveBuddha’s total queries from January 1, 2022-August 5, 2022.

Locations near New York City account for the biggest losses, even adjusted for population. In fact, the U.S. Census shows that 4 of the top 10 counties in percent population decline from April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021 are in New York:

  • #1 New York County (-6.9%)
  • #6 Kings County (-3.5%)
  • #8 Bronx County (-3.2%)
  • #9 Queens County (-3.1%)

Virus or not, the recovery of counties surrounding New York City may mirror that of other pandemic patients—slow, and full of setbacks. Here are some common culprits that could be responsible for New York’s high number of out-moves:

  1. Economic Trouble: The pandemic shuttered a third of New York’s businesses, and current unemployment in New York County is 11.2% (the national average is just 6%). Underemployment is also a problem, particularly for people of color. 
  2. Skyrocketing Rents: While fewer residents are employed, average rents have risen every year for the past five years, despite the declining population. 
  3. Cost of Living Crisis: New York City is the most expensive place for renters in the nation, and the cost of living is 87% above average. Without jobs, it’s hard to imagine how rents have soared 39.9% year over year.
  4. High Taxes: With common origin states having some of the highest taxes in the country and destination states having some of the lowest, many point the finger at taxes.

Where are Empire State residents going? According to moveBuddha data, Florida, California, and Texas top the list, making up over 40% of all out-of-state moves.

 

Rank Destination State % of Moves
1 Florida 19.8%
2 California 12.8%
3 Texas 8.1%
4 North Carolina 6.4%
5 New Jersey 5.1%
6 Georgia 4.6%
7 Pennsylvania 4.1%
8 South Carolina 3.4%
9 Colorado 2.7%
10 Illinois 2.5%

Nearly one in five New Yorkers is heading to the Sunshine State. The nation’s #2 destination for in-moves, Floridians have welcomed New Yorkers for generations, though they’re used to snowbirds and retirees ready to golf. Now, the state’s also attractive for its 2.7% unemployment rate and moderate housing costs — 102% of the national average compared to New York’s 131%, which soars to 294% in New York City.

With #2 California and #3 Texas also winning over large numbers of New Yorkers, harsh winters are likely playing a part in their moves. California, after all, has a notoriously high cost of living, high income tax, and left-leaning COVID policies, all similar to New York. And while the Golden State is experiencing its own exodus, it’s still looking golden to many Empire State transplants.

However, the trend toward smaller and less expensive does not hold for routes searched into and away from New York this year. The most popular routes in and out of the state have been coast to coast. For outbound moves, “New York, NY to Los Angeles, CA has been the most popular search and for inbound, “San Francisco, CA to New York, NY. For all the quips that New York and California contain radically different types of people, there seems to be a lot of intermingling between the two.

II. 2022 Forecast: Which cities are the most popular to move to and out of in 2022 according to moveBuddha data?

We analyzed over 280K searches from the moveBuddha Moving Calculator to identify all the New York cities that moveBuddha users are searching. We looked at only cities with at least 25 inbound searches and 25 outbound searches to avoid outliers and identified 36 total New York cities to see which were the most popular.

Of the cities we analyzed, 27 of the 36 have a negative moves in-to-out ratio, the worst being #36 Jamaica (27 to 100), #35 Bronx (36 to 100), and #34 Staten Island (37 to 100)

Who’s on top with a positive inflow-to-outflow ratio? The cities with positive move ratios are: #1 Webster (132 to 100), #2 Ithaca (127 to 100), and #3 Fairport (126 to 100).

Movers are Seeking Affordability

Of the 9 positive inflow cities, 6 have a median housing cost under the national average (#5 Saratoga Springs, #6 New York City, and #8 Poughkeepsie are exceptions). 

But beware: housing prices in Western New York have skyrocketed in the past two years. While homes are still affordable, they may not be for long: in Buffalo, home prices rose 81.46% from 2010 to 2022 and another 41.48% from 2020 to 2022. In Webster, multiple offers and lightning-fast sales on homes are common.

It seems that those movers heading to the Empire State are fighting for more space, more nature, and affordable prices. Those who move away seem to have the same wish list.
Gotham’s troubles are apparent by looking at the cities with the most outflow compared to inflow. While Jamaica, Bronx, and Staten Island take the bottom three spots, within the bottom 15, just 4 cities fall outside the New York City area. The average home price in the bottom 15? It’s a lofty $549,104.

5 Cities Seeing High Inflow

#1 Webster, NY

CBSA: Rochester 
Census Population (2020): 24,330
Average Home Value: $309,796
Average 2-bed rent: $1,039
Median Income: $58,299
Median age: 45.2
College education or higher: 43.8%
Unemployment rate: 2.8%

In desirable #1 Webster, newcomers can enjoy a median home price of $309,796. Webster is located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario and dotted with nature preserves and trails. There’s lots of room to spread out indoors, too. Buyers in Webster pay about $178 per square foot compared to their New York City counterparts, who fork over $647.

#2 Ithaca, NY

CBSA: Ithaca
Census Population (2020): 30,981
Average Home Value: $298,998
Average 2-bed rent: $1,365
Median Income: $49,486
Median age: 22.1
College education or higher: 69%
Unemployment rate: 4.9%

Home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, this culture-packed, highly-educated town has something to offer everyone, including a moderate cost of living (unless you’re on a student income). Tour the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail to discover new varietals or swim in the gorges at the base of waterfalls at one of the many state parks in the spectacular Finger Lakes

#3 Fairport, NY

CBSA: Rochester
Population (2022 WPR): 5,531**
Average Home Value: $218,475
Average 2-bed rent: $1,039
Median Income: $58,299
Median age: 48.8
College education or higher: 43.8%
Unemployment rate: 23.9%

Like Ithaca, Fairport is a Finger Lakes gem with nature galore, all at an affordable price: Fairport’s cost of living is 5.7% shy of the national average. While the Rochester suburb boasts top-rated schools, high unemployment reflects the midwest’s difficult road back from the pandemic.

#4 Utica, NY

CBSA: Utica-Rome
Census Population (2020): 59,253
Average Home Value: $172,377
Average 2-bed rent: $863
Median Income: $50,201
Median age: 34.2
College education or higher: 20.1%
Unemployment rate: 7%

Loft apartments are popping up downtown, young professionals are eyeing weekend Adirondack getaways, and what was once a withering stop on Interstate 90’s Rust Belt is ready for a comeback. Utica is still affordable as the city struggles to overcome its 27.4% poverty rate, but for those looking to make a new start, this central hub might be the ticket.

#5 Saratoga Springs, NY

CBSA: Albany-Schenectady-Troy
Census Population (2020): 24,330
Average Home Value: $494,889
Average 2-bed rent: $1,207
Median Income: $77,398
Median age: 41.4
College education or higher: 58.6%
Unemployment rate: 2.7%

It makes sense that this area of recreation, from mineral springs to horse racing, is known for the good life. Today, it’s got the highest median home value of the top 5 cities experience higher inflow than outflow. Diminutive Saratoga Springs is insulated from the economic troubles of bigger cities (it’s 45 minutes north of Albany, the closest large city). Its older, well-off residents tend to look upstate anyway, to cruises on Lake George or skiing in Vermont.

5 Cities Seeing High Outflow

#1 Jamaica, NY

CBSA: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
Population (Niche): 151,927**
Average Home Value: $776,946*
Average 2-bed rent: $2,340
Median Income: $57,085
Median age: N/A
College education or higher: N/A
Unemployment rate: N/A

Once upon a time before COVID, Jamaica boasted some of the most affordable rents where young professionals could commute into New York City and catch the Long Island Rail Road out to Montauk (with easy airport access to boot). With remote work, Jamaica’s reputation for crime and comparably high cost of living became the worst of both worlds.

#2 Bronx, NY

CBSA: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
Population (2022 WPR): 1,435,070**
Average Home Value: $776,946*
Average 2-bed rent: $2,340
Median Income: $43,919
Median age: N/A
College education or higher: N/A
Unemployment rate: N/A

Like Jamaica, this “comparably affordable” New York Borough was once desirable for its big apartments, Yankees games, and ethnic food options. But skyrocketing rent increases are squeezing residents in a city where median incomes no longer cover high costs.

#3 Staten Island, NY

CBSA: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
Population (2022 WPR): 474,893**
Average Home Value: $776,946*
Average 2-bed rent: $2,340
Median Income: $62,558
Median age: N/A
College education or higher: N/A
Unemployment rate: N/A

If you’re making a list of New York City-area locations suffering from high housing costs and high resident outflow, add Staten Island. Like Jamaica and Bronx, this former commuter paradise once appealed to families looking for more space. Today, lower housing costs and taxes may be to blame for residents moving out.

#4 Troy, NY

CBSA: Albany-Schenectady 
Census Population (2020): $249,289
Average Home Value: $249,289
Average 2-bed rent: $1,207
Median Income: $54,748
Median age: 42.1
College education or higher: 62.6
Unemployment rate: 3.6%

On the Hudson River, Troy once flourished as a manufacturing and shipping hub. But times have changed, and low rents and property values reflect the high poverty rates that came with the loss of historically important industries. Downtown hosts boutique cafes and shops, but this charming river town of red brick buildings hasn’t found its footing in a new economy, and residents are seeking opportunities elsewhere.

#5 Flushing, NY

CBSA: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
Population (NYU Furman Center): 239,869**
Average Home Value: $776,946*
Average 2-bed rent: $2,340
Median Income: $57,085
Median age: N/A
College education or higher: N/A
Unemployment rate: N/A

Areas around New York City have been hard hit by the pandemic and recent rent hikes, making housing less affordable. Flushing is one of many victims, once known as a foodie haven, with many job opportunities, more parks and open space than other areas of New York City, and low crime. It appears no amount of Bubble Tea and lamb dumplings can keep residents from looking elsewhere for bargains.

III. Stories from locals - Why move out of New York?

To learn a bit more about what's bringing about the exodus, we reached out to people who've actually lived in the Empire State. Every single New Yorker (ex or current) who responded stated the high cost of living and taxes as the #1 reason for wanting to leave. Here are some more insights from the locals:

Big city, bigger pricetag: “Rent is insane! It went down during Covid but it is now back up, in some cases even more than what it was before. The taxes are high, the weather is also not for everyone. It's a fast-paced life, the city has a lot to offer but people get burned out because the bills aren't easy to pay. Add the recession scare and people are really on edge.” -Talal Khan, moved from Manhattan, NY to Jersey City, NJ.

Not family-friendly: “I love New York State, as any NYer, I’m proud to be from this state but taxes are outstanding, especially living in the city. My partner and I have considered moving back to Buffalo, as we won’t have NYC taxes. Additionally, I’m trying to have a family in the next 2 years, and to imagine having to haul a stroller up subway stairs, not have a car to get groceries—it’s not ideal and this is the norm in NYC unless you’re wealthy.” -Jordan Perry, Brooklyn, NY.

The cons outweigh the pros: “I left because I don't feel like New York is a place I can be in anymore. It's too expensive, it's too crowded and noisy, and there are way more people than I can handle on a daily basis. And even though there are so many things for me to do here—and so many amazing places to visit—there are also too many bad memories for me to forget.

When it comes down to it, though, what really makes me want to leave New York isn't just one thing—it's everything together: the cost of living, the noise, and the crowds.” -Bonnie Whitfield, moved from Bronx, NY to San Francisco, CA.

Anything is Possible in New York

moveBuddha’s data shows that pandemic trends will likely continue into the 2020s. New York City residents are still wondering how they can make a more affordable future. Even for those moving into New York State, the cost seems to be a big driver of which locations win new residents and which lose out. 

Overall, New York’s moving story isn’t about unaffordability in the state’s biggest melting pot, New York City. It’s about where New York state is forging a recovery: in western New York, where historical cities with bright autumn leaves, new downtown districts, and ample ways to get outside should be alerting the state about how to get ahead.

Ultimately, in 2022 this once titan of a state is watching its residents move away. If the trend continues, it may need to call on its historical legacy to find new ways to ferry its future back into the harbor.

Planning a move to New York

If you've got a NY move on the horizon, these pages will help you:

  • Best New York Movers Pretty straight forward, we looked at hundreds of movers across the state and these are the best ones in New York.
  • Find your New York moving route Want detailed help for your move? Pick where you're moving to and from in New York, and we'll help you find out costs and movers

IV. Sources and Methodology

This report primarily uses primarily data from moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator with city-specific details from the U.S. Census Bureau. For understanding the cost of area homes we use Zillow’s Home Value Index and for rent data, we referred to Housing Data.

moveBuddha proprietary data

This data was collected from January 1, 2022 through August 5, 2022, capturing searches by individuals who were either planning to move themselves or hire a moving company in the subsequent year.

We used this data to analyze:

Section 1:

  • 2022 State-based in-to-out move ratio, +280K queries analyzed
  • Most popular state for moves from New York in 2022, with 10,607 queries analyzed

Section 2:

  • 2022 New York cities in-to-out move ratio, we limited data to cities with a minimum of 25 inbound queries and 25 outbound queries for a total of 36 cities.
  • Most popular out-of-state cities for New York residents to move to in 2022.
  • Most popular routes for New York residents heading out of state in 2022.

U.S. Census Bureau — historical population data, median age, education, and unemployment rates:

Historical population totals, April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2020. To understand the methodology for devising these population estimates, please refer to the official methodology for total resident population estimates.

**Note: the population for some neighborhoods was not documented in the U.S. Census historical data, so we found supplemental data from NYU Furman Center, World Population Review, and Niche reports.

Zillow — Zillow Home Value Index city data:

The Zillow Home Value Index or ZHVI provides us with the typical single-family home value within each city at a given period of time.

*For most of the neighborhoods in Queens, Zillow provided one blanket average home value to cover them all. That’s why these neighborhoods have the same documented home value.

FRED Per Capita Personal Income by County:

The Federal Reserve Economic Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis releases annual personal income data tables per county across the U.S. We then match these stats to the corresponding counties in each city.

Final Fair Market Rents Documentation System:

We use the Final Fair Market Rents Documentation System to find the most up-to-date data on median 2-bedroom rent prices. This data is also documented by county, in which we then match the stats to the corresponding counties in each city.

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